The Fair and the not-so-Lovely.

This is a post that’s been in the works for a while now. It’s about an issue that is extremely, extremely important to me. Important enough to get me absolutely livid when it’s even mentioned.

I’m referring to those absolutely lovely advertisements on the television every hour of every day, on absolutely every channel. This lovely Indian product called ‘Fair and Lovely‘. The title itself seems to imply that you can’t be lovely unless you’re fair.

I’m utterly offended by the very premise of the product.

I haven’t even BEGUN to discuss the actual advert.

I suppose it isn’t prevalent anymore, but it is definitely still present.The entire idea that being fair-skinned somehow makes you automatically attractive.

What I’ve noticed, though, is that this entire phenomenon is concentrated among those sub-cultures and areas of the country where the priority in a family seems to be to have the daughter married off, because that is when she ‘truly begins her life’, apparently, and if she is ‘unattractive’, nobody will want to marry her.

They use that terribly redundant system  now used in villages- showing the potential bride’s and groom’s sides of the family pictures to decide whom they want to marry.

Yes,that’s the way to do it, instead of actually finding out what the other person is like, getting to know them, deciding whether or not you want to be with them long-term, which is actually what happens in the system known as ‘arranged marriages’.

Though I am completely against the very idea of ‘arranging’ a marriage, I must admit that it has become nothing more than families setting their children/siblings/cousins up with potential suitors. I find the whole idea horrendous, though. If at some point in my life, I am looking for love, I’d rather find it by myself.

Back to the Fair and Lovely advert.

They’ve been getting progressively worse over the years, but I saw about the worst one I’ve seen just two weeks ago, while I was watching an India-Australia test series.

It depicted this young girl, perhaps only a few years older than I, riding a bicycle. Funnily enough, Queen’s Bicycle Race immediately came to mind. The girl then sat down at the edge of her little brother’s bed, and pointing out the window at the huge mansion across the road from their own (decently-sized, and by no means spartan) lodgings, said “Someday, I will buy us a house that’s THAT big.”

The little boy looked at her, makes a face, and said that since there was  ‘no money in cycling, she should try tennis instead’. When he said that, two things came to mind. First, I wanted to go up to the inane writer and ask him if he knew who Lance Armstrong was. ‘No money in cycling’ indeed.

My second issue was that I found it absolutely stupid that he was suggesting she take up tennis, considering Sania Mirza‘s worldwide show of ‘talent’. She played about 5 games decently, and then decided she wanted to focus on doing advertisements and promotions instead, thus forgetting all about this lovely thing known as practice.

A couple of years into her career, all she was famous for was for her personal life and endorsements, which is pitiful,really, because she was talented, beyond a doubt.

She just needed to nurture it, which she forgot about somewhere down the line. Perhaps she could’ve taken pointers on how to balance her career and endorsements from the Williams sisters, but I suppose that’d be like asking a random intelligent person to emulate Albert Einstein. Quite unfair.

The girl in the advertisement then proceeded to continue with her bicycling career (shock, horror!) but this time,  something’s different. What is ‘different’ this time, you ask?

This time round, you see, she uses a ‘fairness cream’, one that shows you how fair you’re getting. The girl gets progressively fairer (and, I’m supposed to assume, as a result, more beautiful). She’s offered a multitude of endorsement contracts- perfumes and fragrances, cars, books, airlines, food, you name it, and of course, she gets rich.

They then (mercifully) cut to the end of the advertisement, which is even worse.

Miss Fair-and now-Lovely reaches the finish line of an important bicycle race (in first place,of course) and pulls off her helmet and shakes her hair in a manner befitting the actresses of the 50s that pulled off their scarves and let their hair blow in the wind, all the while seated in their huge convertibles, driven by a Cary Grant, or a Humphrey Bogart.

As her long hair cascades down her back, she poses for the paparazzi and then, putting an arm around her mother, walking down a road full of massive bungalows , says “pick one,I’ll buy it for you.”

So, what we, (you and I, dear reader, and the rest of the nation watching this stupidity) are supposed to infer, is that even if you are a brilliant sportsperson- cyclist, javelin thrower, tennis player, chess player, or successful at what you do, it all comes to naught if you aren’t conventionally good-looking.

You’re also supposed to infer that you CANNOT be considered conventionally beautiful unless you’re fair, which is terrible, considering some of the most beautiful, good-looking women ( and men) in the world are dark-skinned, like Tyra Banks, or Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Why, then, do we wonder why the young girls of today are becoming anorexic and bulimic, obsessed with their appearances and cosmetic surgery, rather than what is inside? Our ideals of beauty have become completely warped, and people have ceased to realise that beauty is a very, very relative term, and will always remain in the eye of the beholder. Thanks to this, anyone who is not absolutely skinny is labelled ‘plus-size’,’fat’, or obese.

I am completely in favour of eating healthy , but the pressure on young girls to be thin is, sadly, tremendous, and most of them bow down to it.

While it disgusts me, I am sure that the executives at Hindustan Unilever, the manufacturer of Fair and Lovely, are completely aware that their product only sells by feeding off the insecurities of millions of young girls who are just forming their opinions about the real world, have just hit puberty,  and, perhaps, for the first time, have begun to care about relationships and appearances.

Since our country’s censor board is absolutely obsessive about ‘censorship’ on television, perhaps they should be fully aware of what truly needs to be ‘censored’.


Fair is foul, and foul is fairness creams.

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About abohemiansrhapsody

Writer, reader, musician, crossword puzzle addict, social scientist, funnywoman, traveller and Beatlemaniac extraordinaire, I enjoy the first of those things the most. Editor and writer at, loving what I do and doing what I love. Formula One, tennis and running editor, Ayrton Senna fan. I write about society, culture, feminism, politics, economics, film, advertising, of things that affect the world at large. I love to sing, and play the piano and a bit of guitar. I also love taking photos. Of anything and everything. My food, a dog on the street, a panhandler, a piece of trash. If I likes, I strikes. Whenever and wherever the inspiration strikes. When I'm not writing news articles, blogs and essays, I like working on a bit of fiction. You can find my short stories and other general musings at: or My photography and poetry at: And my music at:

8 responses to “The Fair and the not-so-Lovely.”

  1. Sumedha says :

    very true !!!! i agree…

  2. thatmadgirl says :

    Good writing, noo.
    A little rantish… but well structured nonetheless.
    looking forward to more.
    We’re all so very proud of you!

  3. Sudeep says :

    well i would not worry about F&L. It’s surviving because of an insecurity that exists in the mind of people, which is now increasingly getting to be an old, dead issue. The constant economic improvement and rising education levels of the lower -middle and the middle class where this insecurity finds refuge is slowly coming to see what you have very well put above: hard work and perseverance in the area of your liking leads to success and simply putting a cream (which works more like a whitener than a face cream) would only lead you to more skin problems.

    The company fails on the count, that none of the women winners in the recently held CWG 2010 were not users of Fair &; Lovely cream.

    Sudeep, completely agree. And that last statement? Perfect!

    – Anu

  4. sudo apt-get says :

    Old post but what the hey.

    During my stay in India, I’ve noticed those commercials too and I’ve got to agree with you.

    I think standards of beauty are warped all over the world and have always been pretty warped. In every era you can think of, you’d find that women are willing to go to absurd lengths to appear attractive, from wearing bone-crushing corsets in peak summer, to never leaving the house without makeup, to starving themselves in order to attain the “perfect” figure. Skin whitening cream is just one of the more unusual cultural manifestations of this phenomenon.

    I think we can squarely lay the blame on a patriarchal society where people have tended to care more about what women look like than what they really ARE. Things are changing now, but only in the sense that men feel pretty similar compulsions nowadays. I know this because I’m sitting in the sun right now, every square inch of my face covered with an SPF 1,000,000 sunblock, calmly checking out the date of my upcoming hairdresser appointment on my BlackBerry.

    I swear I was so much happier before doing that MBA and becoming one of the “suits”. *sigh*

    • abohemiansrhapsody says :

      Well yes, standards of beauty have always been odd, but I quite liked the beautiful Rubenesque figures of the women of the era of Michelangelo and Da Vinci, they were natural, not sickly or obese.

      About the patriarchal society bit? I agree,completely. And as pathetic as this is, in so many parts of India, especially the north, (no offense to you if that’s where you’re from,), the woman’s value lies in her ability to look good, ‘please’ her husband in bed, (sex needn’t be pleasing for her), cook, clean, and pander to her mother-in-law.
      I personally don’t think men have half as much of a problem with regard to keeping up appearances, you see someone like Zach Galifinakis who’s successful because people see his comedic and thespian talents, whereas if it were a fat woman in his place, they’d probably say something like “she’s successful in spite of her weight”, which is essentially the entire premise of Bridget Jones’ Diary, that she landed someone that looked like Colin Firth, was intellectual and paid handsomely, in spite of being plainer than usual, or less ‘hot’ than usual. Meh.
      Loved your comments, much appreciated! Do keep coming back and checking this page for updates!

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